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Demko, United States shut out Slovakia at WJC

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- The United States made it clear it wanted a showdown of undefeated Group A teams when it plays Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Goalie Thatcher Demko made 17 saves for his first shutout, and forwards Sonny Milano, Dylan Larkin and John Hayden scored to lead the United States to a 3-0 win against Slovakia at Bell Centre on Monday.

The United States (2-1-0-0) has won its first three WJC games in six of the past eight years, including last year in Malmo, Sweden.

On Wednesday, the United States plays Canada (3-0-0-0), which defeated defending champion Finland 4-1 later Monday.

"It's a huge game, to win the group pretty much," Larkin said. "Hopefully Canada takes care of business [Monday] and it'll be a good game and a lot on the line for positioning in the next round."

Demko (Vancouver Canucks), who made 28 saves in a 2-1 shootout win against defending champion Finland on Friday, got the United States its second straight shutout. Brandon Halverson (New York Rangers) made 14 saves in a 6-0 win against Germany on Sunday.

Milano (Columbus Blue Jackets) scored for a second straight game in the second period, and Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) scored his third goal in two games in the third period. Hayden (Chicago Blackhawks) scored with 52.8 seconds remaining.

"Our goaltenders have been very good, and it starts there," U.S. coach Mark Osiecki said. "And we've stressed our puck possession, and when we don't have the puck, how quick can we get it back. We've talked about that since Lake Placid (summer camp) and that's a strength of ours. If we can use our skating, our legs, to hound the puck and get it back, but we've possessed the puck a lot and that certainly helps us defensively."

Denis Godla made 45 saves in his third start in a row for Slovakia (1-0-0-2).

"I can't say anything bad about [Godla]," Slovakia coach Ernest Bokros said through an interpreter. "Our offense couldn't do anything."

Milano broke down the left side and snapped a shot past Godla to put the United States up 1-0 at 17:42 of the second period.

"It's like an instinct kind of thing," Milano said. "Like when I'm on the goal line, I know that sometimes maybe the goalie's cheating down low, so I just kind of threw it up top and luckily it went in."

Larkin, who had two goals and an assist Sunday, scored at 2:38 of the third period on a shot from the right corner that appeared to catch Godla by surprise after he made a pad save on Milano's shot from the slot.

"I was just turning around and it went under my arm," Godla said through an interpreter. "I pushed myself against the post and it just went in."

Hayden scored the third goal with a shot from the right circle.

The United States held a 10-3 advantage in shots in the first period, but Slovakia had the best scoring chance when Demko came up with a save late in the period to deny Slovakia forward Matus Sukel.

Forward Patrik Koys began the play that led to the scoring chance from behind the U.S. net with a pass. Linemate Pavol Skalicky took his pass to the right side and quickly fed the puck to Sukel, whose shot from the slot was stopped by Demko.

Forward Auston Matthews, a 2016 NHL Draft prospect, set up the United States' best chance before Milano's goal when he broke down the left side in the second period and forward Tyler Motte (Chicago Blackhawks) deflected his shot off the right post.

"A lot of our shots were from the perimeter, so I think one of our goals was to maybe get more towards the net and get more shots from in tight," Milano said. "So I think once we started doing that, pucks started going in."

Godla flashed his glove to stop a shot by forward Hudson Fasching (Buffalo Sabres) at 13:31 of the third, and sprawled to the ice moments later to make another save on 2015 NHL Draft-eligible defenseman Brandon Carlo's shot from the left side.

Slovakia defenseman Erik Cernak served a one-game suspension assessed against him Sunday for elbowing Finland forward Mikko Rantanen in the head and neck area Saturday after Rantanen had released the puck.

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